The People's Perspective on Medicine


The Indian herb boswellia has anti-inflammatory properties that can help people with arthritis pain or other inflammation.

Frankincense, like myrrh, is featured in the Bible story about the three wise men visiting the infant Jesus. Like myrrh, frankincense is a resin from a tree in the family Burseraceae. (Guggul is another resin from Boswellia carteri, a tree in that family.)

Frankincense comes from Boswellia sacra, a tree that grows in Somalia and parts of Saudi Arabia. Boswellia, or Indian frankincense, comes from Boswellia serrata, a tree native to hilly regions of India.

Like guggul, this resin has a long tradition of use in Ayurvedic medicine and is almost unknown in Europe and North American herbal traditions. At least one product sold in health food stores, Boswellin, contains a standardized ethanol extract of boswellia gum.

Active Ingredients

Boswellin is standardized to 60 to 65 percent boswellic acid and its derivatives. These are the primary active ingredients in the gum resin. The volatile oil contains pinene and phellandrene, among other ingredients, and imparts a distinctive fragrance, similar to that of frankincense.


In Ayurvedic medicine, different parts of *B. serrata* were traditionally used to treat such varied health conditions as asthma, dysentery, rheumatism, ulcers, and skin disorders.

Extracts of the resin have shown unmistakable anti-inflammatory power in animals, and rats with experimental arthritis responded well to treatment without apparent side effects. Test tube research shows that boswellic acids inhibit a specific enzyme crucial in producing certain chemicals important in the process of inflammation.

A boswellic acid mixture is used in India to treat arthritis. A double-blind crossover study of patients with osteoarthritis demonstrated that a preparation containing _B. serrata_ significantly reduced disability scores and pain, although it did not alter the underlying joint deformity.

The arthritis benefits from boswellic acids may be related to their impact on glycosaminoglycan metabolism; these are the same biochemical pathways affected by glucosamine. Boswellic acid also has an effect on the immune system.

A boswellia gum resin preparation has been studied for the treatment of ulcerative colitis in comparison to sulfasalazine, a standard drug for this condition.

Over the course of six weeks, measures such as blood tests, stool analyses, and tissue pathology showed improvement. Three-fourths of the patients given sulfasalazine went into remission, and 82 percent of those on the resin preparation did so as well.

Tantalizing new research may reveal that it can help fight cancer. [BBC]



The dose utilized in the ulcerative colitis study was 350 mg three times a day. That study lasted six weeks.

Special Precautions

No special precautions are noted.

Adverse Effects

Boswellia has not been shown to cause ulcers, cardiovascular, respiratory, or psychological side effects. It might cause heartburn or gastritis, though.

In clinical trials, no side effects experienced by patients were severe enough to require them to stop participating in the study.

Possible Interactions

No interactions have been reported. Limited experience with this botanical medicine in Europe or North America may mean that it has not been widely used in conjunction with pharmaceutical medicines.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I have been taking Boswellia for about 5 years. I have a titanium hip ball from an accident in 2010 and was having a good bit of pain. Boswellia has helped significantly.

I had taken Boswellia Special Formula by Solaray for Varicose vein blood clots & the Boswellia cleared up the blood clots in a couple days & lifted the pain completely. I am now starting to take it again for High blood pressure & a pinched sciatic nerve. Has anyone used Boswellia for high blood pressure?

Boswellia Seratta in pill form saved me from the horrifying pain of fibromyalgia. It took 7-weeks to start working, but since I’d been in severe pain for 5-years, it was well worth the wait. I take 2 pills, 3 times a day with meals. Far and away more effective than Lyrica or any other prescription med I’ve ever tried.

I just read the paragraph on boswellia and also another article where you mix it with some essential oils. My question is, do you rub it on your skin or use it in a deffuser?

I have just been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and have read alot of positive things about baswellia, however I am at a loss on where to purchase this herb, preferably dry herb which is not yet ground down to a powder form. Can anyone help?

I introduced Boswellia to my mom neuropathy due to shingles, but I have concerns with the HBP drugs she takes, Vasoprin and moduretic. Are there any contraindications? Thanks

I have Arthitstis in my right knee, and tenderitis in
My Achilles Tendon. I want to know if this will help my pain, especially in my Achilles Tendon. I have a hard time walking on my Achilles, because the pain is excruciating. Please can someone tell me if the Bosewellia will help me in these area.

I have taken 400 mg of ibuprofen for years for osteoarthritis. I need to increase that to 600 mg and take stomach anti-acid pills but wonder if instead I can quit ibuprofen and take Boswellia serrata instead. Is Boswellia as effective as ibuprofen in relieving inflammation? It is my biggest arthritis problem. 1230 mg /day or what level to get the effects of 600mg of ibuprofen?


I suffer from type 1 diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis, and have alot of pain. My wife and I did some research and found that 500 mg of Boswellia extract and 1500 mg of Tumeric Curcumin helps ease my pain and stiffness. I usually only need take it once a day, maybe twice on bad days. I have also been taking Borage 2400 mg to help with inflamation. It seems to help also. I hope this helps you out some. Take care.

I’m interested in using boswellia, however I have read that beta boswellia acids in boswellia can pose a risk of blood clots, do you know of any side effects of boswellia causing blood clots?

any idea if ok with Arimidex??
People’s Pharmacy response: There is very little research on herb-drug interactions. At least one scholarly publication seems to indicate that interactions between boswellia and Arimidex are unlikely, but that may change with more research.

Has anyone had any problems taking Boswellia and cumadin together????I have to take the blood thinner because of blood clots…But my RA is bad in my back, and I was told that Boswellia would give me some relief, so that I would not have to take so much naproxen and Tylenol….Nsaids and cumadin do not go together……I do not want to get my blood out of sync!!!
Peoples Pharmacy response: There have been some reports of Boswellia increasing the risk of bleeding when combined with warfarin (Coumadin).

boswellia is great! had slight osteo arthritis in l. knee; pain gone within two weeks. as an aside, I do my own healing, being a qigong master & taught by a grand master f/ wuhan, china. this stuff also works; it has to; been around since neolithic times. I’m also a plain vanilla white guy who doesn’t type.

Where is the best source for Boswellia?
I have some normal aches and pains but have 2 herniated discs that I have lived with for 40 years..(well, thinking about it…actually 50 plus years now – including 33 years in the military)..anyhow, I need some kind of assistance….I have been taking ibuprofen and think it is now starting to cause a kidney issue.
Thanks for feedback.

Boswellia is wonderful for joint aches and pains when taken along with a good curcumin. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find without excipients. I’ve learned to take great care with herbal supplements and avoid fillers.

HAVE YOU TRIED Curamin? It contains Curcumen and Boswellia.

When I first began experiencing fibromyalgia 30 years ago no doctor would give my persistent aches a name. Research by me finally came upon fibromyalgia and a reference to boswellia. It really helped but I somehow stopped taking it after a few years. The last few summers I’ve been absolutely miserable with fibromyalgia and suddenly this spring I remembered boswellia. I bought a bottle and had almost instant relief. This is the first summer in years that I can do more than lie around feeling miserable. I’ll never go without it again since it has no side effects and really does the job.

I started taking Boswellia for hip pain due to osteoarthritis. Within two days, I was amazed at the pain relief. I have a prescription for Celebrex, but the side-effects scared me. Advil, Aleve, etc., caused stomach pain. I hope Boswellia may be the answer.

I’m going to give it a try for some minor inflammation in my hands. Want to try to improve it before it gets worse. Will let everyone know how it goes.

I want to fix a typo in my previous reply regarding dosage I take.
I started taking Boswellia for my Ulcerative Colitis since I am allergic to both Aspirin (Active ingredient in Mesalmine) and the other medicine Proctofoam. Boswellia has helped a lot to manage my problem. However, it did give me stomach pain which went away ever since I started taking a 380mg tablet of DGL Licorice with it. Throughout the year I take at least 2 caps of 250mg of Boswellia daily with food.
But when the problem becomes severe in late spring and early summer I increase the dosage up to 1250mg a day (5 caps a day). As an added bonus, I also noticed that my receding hair line on my head has reversed. Hairs on my head are growing fuller and faster.

I started taking Boswellia for my Ulcerative Colitis since I am allergic to both Aspirin (Active ingredient in Mesalmine) and the other medicine Proctofoam. Boswellia has helped a lot to manage my problem. However, it did give me stomach pain which went away ever since I started taking a 380mg tablet of DGL Licorice with it. Throughout the year I take at least 2 caps of 250mg of Boswellia daily with food.
But when the problem becomes severe in late spring and early summer I increase the dosage up to 1250mg (5 times a day). As an added bonus, I also noticed that my receding hair line on my head has reversed. Hairs on my head are growing fuller and faster.

I have taken Boswellia as well and recommend it. It has also helped me with my pain from upper spine/neck (bulging disks) and lower back pain. Without taking it my pain is horrible. I did the 8 weeks of taking it then stopped and within the following 2 wks off, my pain came back.
I am currently back on the 8 wks again and in this second go around I started with the rash and some hives, doesn’t itch. Did see Dr but cream Dr prescribed didn’t help. I hate to get off Boswellia since it is the only thing that has help me. Has anyone else had skin rash or skin hives from taking it?

I am wondering about Boswellia in helping asthma (for my 8 year old child). Anyone?

Is there a reliable source that names which brands of alternative herbal remedies are the most unadulterated? contain what they say they do on the label?

I started taking Boswellia about a month ago and within a few days I was amazed at the relief I have had. One knee has had 5 surgeries and the other knee 1 surgery. The constant pain from inflammation was terrible and I found myself taking too much Advil. I still have the injury pain, but the inflammation has improved so much. I can actually sleep in the night as my knee does not flare up in pain as it had. I strongly recommend Bosellia. I checked with my doctor since I am on thyroid and cholesterol medicine and she said it would not interfere with either.

Has anyone experienced nose bleeds after taking Boswellia? I have this problem with NSAIDS as well as after trying Boswellia before in Curamin, which I purchased at my local health food store. Has anyone with this problem tried something else that did work for arthritis pain that didn’t make their nose bleed?
Thanks for responding.

I am very interested in Boswellia for arthritis pain in back, arms and legs. Where do you buy this? Is it a pill or liquid? Thanks for your help.

I have fibromyalgia and I sure wish someone could give me something that they are taking (no nsaids) I’m looking for something natural or home made remedy.. They are better than the poison we receive from our doctors… I know that I’m being poisoned right now, but there is nothing I can do… I have meds for high blood pressure, chol, depression, and a few more, I need the help! I want to live longer, I’m only 72, can’t die now..Ha!

Has anyone tried Boswellia for fibromyalgia? If you have, what was your experience.

I am a clinical pharmacist and know very well the potential adverse effects of the chronic use of NSAIDs. That being said, I have avoided taking ibuprofen and other such agents. I saw my primary care provider for a physical in April and talked to him about the pain I was experiencing in my hands, wrists, elbows, and feet.
He checked an ANA which was negative and suggested using Tylenol which really didn’t help. On the advice of son who is studying to be a chiropractor I recently started Boswellia. I am completely amazed! Over a period of 3 weeks my pains have gradually improved.
I am able to do all of my daily activities -mowing the lawn, working in the garden, etc with much less stiffness and pain. Sure, I still have pain but I don’t have that constant achy feeling I had before that wore me out. The best thing is I have had very few side effects. It does possess a mild diuretic effect and should be taken with food to avoid stomach irritation. Definitely consider this agent instead of taking Motrin, Advil or Aleve.

I started using Boswellia to treat low back pain, it has worked wonders and got me off my regiment of Motrin and Vicodin. This stuff works!

Frankincense oil applied to the back of the neck below the hairline heals at the cellular level. I find it relieves stress and headache and pain.
Use it as aromatherapy by inhaling a few drops placed in the palm of your hand for stress reduction.

I have rheumatoid arthritis. I am on placquenil and Advil. I decided to try cats claw and boswellia, took the standardized tablets twice a day and it seems to be helping my inflammation with my arthritis.

I have used Boswellin cream for lower back problems for some time. I found it worked well. (I no longer use it for this as the problem no longer exists, except on rare occasions when I am extremely stressed.
I tried it for what was diagnosed as arthritis in my right elbow. It didn’t seem to work well. I have wondered if it would help the problems associated with the feet due to diabetic problems. Just a thought. I mentioned this to a friend who suffers greatly with this problem. Sine he hasn’t tried it I suppose he prefers to suffer and complain.

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